Heard Around the Dial

As expected, the subject on all the sportstalk stations yesterday revolved around the coach's decision to kick the field goal in the last seconds of the game to send it into overtime. Fourth and goal from the six inch line, and Brian Billick screamed at rookie QB Troy Smith to get off the field so Matt Stover could tie the game. The three different stations all had either current or former Ravens as part of the discussion.

Listening in on the Anita Marks TV simulcast of her radio show with former Ravens offensive lineman Wally Williams, a caller said the Ravens should have gone for the win, while Williams said the basic mantra, "you go for the tie on the road and the win at home." Sorry, Wally, the circumstances dictated otherwise. Perhaps that mantra works when you're fighting for a playoff spot or seeding, but not when you're 4-9, on a seven game losing streak and playing what was supposed to be the worst team in football. When another caller couldn't understand that when we were starting a nickle back (Corey Ivy) and just off the practice squad player (Willie Gaston) at the two corners, why didn't we keep Ed Reed and/or Dawan Landry back for additional coverage help, Anita Marks stupidly replied that Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan had a gameplan and his defensive schemes had the safeties playing all over the field and these guys (Ivy/Gaston) had to play the way Rex wanted them to. Williams stated that you can't have Pro Bowl corners all the time and these guys were thrown into the mix late in the season, but he didn't seem to understand that that his comments were the exact reason that you should have kept at least Ed Reed back for the secondary support that was obviously lacking as Cleo Lemon (who?) threw for over 300 yards for the first time in his career!

The next radio show I listened to was wide receiver Derrick Mason's. He said he never thought they would go for the TD in that situation, as he considered the ball to be on the one yard line, no matter if it was six inches (what?). He said to kick the field goal, and then win it in overtime. Sorry, Derrick, but here's what you need to look at in comparison. Which is harder: Run the ball six inches, or: make the field goal, win the coin toss, drive down the field, and make another field goal? To me, based on the way the defense was playing (or not playing), risking the coin toss going to the Dolphins meant the game was over, they way the defense was playing without Ray Lewis in the fourth quarter.

Finally, I listened to the Ray Lewis Show (with Anita Marks again-uggghhh!). Ray was the only one who seemed to put it in perspective. He didn't take a stance on the FG vs. the TD, but if you read between the lines on his comments, you could pretty much tell which way he was leaning. He focused on the fact that he couldn't tell his "babies" (Ivy, Gaston, etc.) that they played terribly, because they were not starters and were basically forced into playing out of position. Normally, they'd be the nickle or dime back, surrounded by the true starters (McAlister, Rolle, etc.) on a healthy team with Trevor Pryce applying pressure and Ray Lewis leading the defense from the huddle. However, they found themselves in a professional football game against other pros, even if they were the winless Miami Dolphins, being asked to do something that they were unprepared to do. He added that the loss was unfortunate but the Ravens were in a tough position with those injuries all season long, so he continues to think that if this team was healthy from the beginning of the season, then we would have seen a team similar to last year's. I'm not too sure if I'd go that far, but I firmly believe that you can lose any two players on a team other than both starting cornerbacks and slide in replacements and make do. However, when you lose both starting CB's, you have the opposing offenses focused on exposing your weaknesses, and that what happened in the Miami, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh games, all three (and not coincidently) easily the most embarrassing defeats of the season.

All told, Ray still has my vote as the most vocal and effective communicator on this team. The others try to gloss it over, refusing to stray from the "Company Line," while Ray will speak his mind, unafraid to say what everyone else is thinking but don't have the balls to say. At the same time, Ray will never throw a teammate under the bus, as he believes they all are trying to the best of their ability and they can't be faulted if their ability is less than what is necessary to help lead the team to victory. He is a warrior and a winner, in this writer's less-than-humble opinion, STILL the best middle linebacker in the game, bar none!

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